Aloha ‘Aina (Love of the Land): The Struggle for Land and Power in Hawai’i (Repost)

(Note: Reposting this from hawaii as this adds to the discussions on Hawaiian sovereignty. Note this was originally written in 1982 so some of the ideas expressed are no longer considered “factual” but its an interesting read to see how far the sovereignty movement came and at how involved liberals and progressives were involved once upon a time)

Aloha ‘Aina (Love of the Land): The Struggle for Land and Power in Hawai’i

from East Wind Magazine Vol. 1 No. 1 Spring/Summer (1982)

Subheadings were added to the original publication to make this more readable on the web.

by Tracy Takano

This image of foreigners became a reality, and today native Hawai’ians and other local people–the people of Hawai’i from Asia, Puerto Rico and Portugal first brought over as contract laborers by the plantation owners–are locked into a fight with the graspers for every beach, valley and piece of land in Hawai’i.
The struggle for land began when the foreigners from the U.S. and Europe came to exploit and colonize Hawai’i in the early 1800’s. The graspers saw that to take the land, they also needed to replace the ali’i, the Hawai’ian chiefs who controlled the land. They were able to do this by the end of the century when the haole (white) capitalist planters and merchants overthrew the Hawai’ian monarchy in 1893. As the land was lost, the foreigners’ grasp grew tighter on the sovereignty of Hawai’i. Similarly, the struggle to regain the land today is part of the struggle for revolution and to gain political power.
The Hawai’ians had a very developed feudal society by the time British explorer James Cook came to the islands in 1778. The Hawai’ian land system was based on use rather than private ownership – the ali’i controlled the land, but the maka’ãinana (people of the land, commoners) had the right to use the resources of the land and sea. The relationship between the people and the land was expressed in the concept aloha’ãina –love of the land. Hawai’ians took care of the land so that the land could continue to sustain them. The Hawai’ian economy, culture, religion and political system were based on shared use and respect for the land.
Cook had opened the doors to a flood of Americans and Europeans who rushed to exploit Hawai’i. Westerners, especially the American missionaries, gained favor with some of theali’i and were given positions in the Hawai’ian government. They convinced many of the ali’i of the superiority of the haole ways including the philosophy of free trade which the missionaries taught in the schools they established for the ali’i. Most significantly, they were able to introduce private ownership of land.
By the 1850’s, the haole caused a major land distribution called The Great Mahele which instituted private ownership of land. About a third of the land, some 1,500,000 acres, was supposed to be for land claims by the maka’ãinana but the ali’i and the haole manipulated the Mahele so that they received most of the land while the maka’ainana received only 28,000 acres. Less than 1% of the land went to the 99% of the population. The Hawai’ians, whose bodies and souls were tied to the land, were cut off from it, and the haole were able to replace the Hawai’ian social structure with their own.
It was also during the 1850’s that the haole, especially the American capitalist planters and merchants, began seriously organizing either for an overthrow of the monarchy or annexation by the U.S. In 1893, the planters and merchants staged a coup backed up with a U.S. navy gunboat and 150 U.S. troops. Queen Lili’uokalani was forced into a conditional surrender, and the haole immediately asked for annexation by the U.S.
Formal annexation by the U.S. in 1898 meant that political power was even further removed from the people and that Hawai’i was secure for imperialist domination. The planter monopolies – Alexander & Baldwin, AMFAC, Castle & Cooke, C. Brewer, and Theo. Davies – became known as the Big Five because they came to control 80% of the islands’ wealth and were the real rulers of Hawai’i. Hawai’i became a military base for the U.S. and was under martial law during World War II. Statehood in 1959 completed the political domination of the people by the American imperialists.
Statehood brought new waves of settlers to the islands and greatly changed the character of Hawai’i. The first ten years were especially devastating. During this period, the population rose by 137,000 people, and just under 100,000 in this increase was in the haole population. Most of the people coming from the mainland U.S. were professionals, businessmen and management people. During this time, the military occupation of the islands stepped up.
Domination by monopoly corporationsIn addition to the Big Five, other U.S. monopoly corporations accelerated their domination of the Hawai’ian economy. The number of tourists increased 500% and the number of hotel rooms tripled to hold them.
The system of land distribution did not change much since the plantation days. 45% of the land is held by 39 major landholders, while small, private owners control only 6.3% of the land. The rest is held by the State and U.S. government.
The large landholders were making the most of this new influx of capital and rich people. Land previously used for pineapple and sugar was cleared and leased for resorts or expensive housing developments. Small leasehold farms were pushed out of the valleys to make room for development. Hotels and condominiums crowded onto the best beaches. America’s welcome to the people of Hawai’i in their first decade of statehood was greater alienation from the land and sea and even less control over their lives.
The Revolutionary Struggle from Kalama ValleyThese same ten years were also ~ times of revolution around the world. Many young people in Hawai’i were inspired to take action too–in part by the liberation movements in the Third World and by U.S. revolutionary organizations such as I Wor Kuen, the Young Lords Party and the Black Panther Party – but mainly from seeing what U.S. imperialism had done to Hawai’i. A new revolutionary nationalist movement emerged in Hawai’i out of the struggle for Kalama Valley.
Kalama Valley is located east of Honolulu on the island of O’ahu. The valley had many small farms which were worked by the Hawai’ian, Portuguese, Japanese and Pilipino residents. In the summer of 1970, the Bishop Estate, the largest private landholder in Hawai’i, began evicting the tenants to make way for an expensive housing development.
Most of the residents were forced out, but the last remaining residents would not leave. The struggle for Kalama Valley was significant because it signalled the beginning of an organized resistance to the widespread evictions by the big landholders and a reborn consciousness that the people who work the land and make it productive should control it. This idea was put out most clearly by Kokua Hawai’i, a revolutionary nationalist organization that took up the Kalama Valley fight.
Kokua Hawai’i linked the evictions to the fact that the people of Hawai’i needed land and political power. “For the first time, a lot of us began to realize what it is to be Local and to be proud of it; What it feels like to be brown and proud. What happened in Kalama was a coming together of Local People . . . The time is here when we have to put the big landholders and developers in their place … We need some da kine Power for us kine Local People.” Kokua Hawai’i called for “land for the people of Hawai’i,” self-determination and revolution to get that power.
Kalama Valley was lost, but the larger struggle for land and power grew because these demands came straight from the heart of the people. These sentiments were strongest among the native Hawai’ian people because they have lost the most. When your whole culture, economy and identity is built around the land, you have to be on the land! Taking away their land made it easier for the imperialists to oppress the Hawai’ians.
Other local people united with the struggles to stop development and the use of Hawai’ian lands for outside interests. Their whole lives had also changed completely because of the capitalist ownership and control of the land.
There were different experiences faced by each nationality from China, Japan, Puerto Rico, Portugal, Korea and the Philippines who were brought to work the plantations, but they were all forced to work the land that they did not own. This gave the planters complete control over their living and working conditions. They restricted the people’s use of their own language and force fed them Americanization. The capitalists would not allow them to live as equals to the haole.
After one or two generations here, local people began to adopt some of the Hawai’ian ways, and there was much intermarriage and interaction among the different nationalities because of their common experience of oppression under U.S. imperialism. They felt Hawai’i was home because of their years of hard work and suffering here. They were also angry at seeing that they had no control over their home being sold away to the highest bidder.
Kalama Valley was just the opening shot. It inspired the local people to build organizations everywhere to fight for the land. A lot of these struggles have been in the country, or rural areas, partially because the capitalists tried to develop these areas heavily in the 1970’s, but mainly it was due to the strength of the people in the country.
Many Hawai’ians lived in the country because they can be closer to the land and the Hawai’ian way of life. Other local people in the country also farm and fish and were close to the land. A “country lifestyle” developed based on the traditional Hawai’ian and Asian concepts of sharing, exchanging goods and socializing. Despite the changes Hawai’i had gone through, aloha ‘aina was still felt by the people in the country because they were still able to be on the land and work it and were less influenced by Americanization.
The large land estates owned most of the land the people lived and worked on and soon began to rezone the areas for resort, housing development and other more profitable use of the land.
But community after community resisted. The largest and most militant struggle was by the farmers and residents of Waiahole-Waikane Valley which began in 1974 and still continues. The demand for long-term leases to keep the land in agricultural use, to stop capitalist development, and to keep the country lifestyle mobilized thousands of people. These same general demands characterized the struggles at Niumalu-Nãwiliwili on Kaua’i; ‘Ewa, He’eia-Kea, Waimãnalo on the island of O’ahu; and many other places in the mid-1970’s.
Opposition has come out against major state projects that would bring urbanization to country areas of O’ahu. The state plans to build a deep-draft harbor at Barber’s Point on the leeward coast and the H-3 freeway to the windward coast which would destroy many Hawai’ian historical sites along with the country lifestyle of these areas.
Many of the older communities in Honolulu and other towns were also eyed by greedy developers, and the residents organized themselves to resist evictions. The overall demands in these struggles were to stop evictions and to be able to control what kinds of development goes on in their communities.
Old Vineyard and Old Young Street were longtime communities threatened by development in 1973. They wanted to retain their communities because they knew their neighbors, could speak their own languages there, and did not want to be squeezed together like the other congested areas of Honolulu.
In Chinatown, People Against Chinatown Eviction (PACE) was formed in 1974 to stop evictions and to fight for low-rent housing. Most of the residents were elderly Pilipinos who needed to be in Chinatown because of the low rent and to be where they could socialize and use their own language.
Two years earlier in the town of Waipahu, the Pilipino community in Ota Camp was faced with eviction. Instead of moving, the Ota Camp residents demanded a community that allowed extended families to live together and areas to grow their food. Like PACE, they got massive support for their demands, and the Ota Camp won relocation so that they could retain their culture.
The upsurge in the struggle for land has gotten the most energy from the Hawai’ian people. To be Hawai’ian means to be on the land, and the Hawai’ians have been the most active in getting back on the land.
The Hawai’ians have traditionally had access to the land and the sea, and part of the Hawai’ian economy, until today, is based on hunting, fishing and gathering. But development took over the land and blocked many accesses. The organization Hui Alaloa on the island of Moloka’i and Hawai’ians on the island of Hawai’i organized marches beginning in 1975 to open traditional Hawai’ian trails and accesses despite the fences and the property laws.
There have been many examples of Hawai’ians asserting their rights by occupying the land and taking it back. The Protect Kaho’olawe ‘Ohana organized five occupations of the island of Kaho’olawe in 1976 and 1977 to stop the U.S. Navy from using the island as a target for practice bombing. It was the beginning of the struggle which mobilized thousands to struggle to preserve the rich Hawai’ian culture and history found on Kaho’olawe. The Ohana popularized the concept of aloha ‘aina to describe their feelings for Kaho’olawe and gave it added meaning. Aloha ‘aina became a call to reclaim Kaho’olawe and all Hawai’ian land and use the land in a way that benefited the people.
The landholders were threatened ~ by the growing movement to take back the land and have gone all out to squash it. In 1974, Hawai’ians occupied a beach in Kona on the island of Hawai’i and built Kuka’ilimoku Village to block construction of a hotel. The developers and police came many times to tear down the village and get rid of the residents, but the people are determined to keep access to the beach open and save the many historical sites there. I n 1979, the state government tried to smash the struggle of Hawai’ians of Sand Island on O’ahu. People there had taken over Hawai’ian land which was being used as an industrial dump. Their aim was to live in the Hawai’ian way by the sea and to establish a park where Hawai’ians could live and perpetuate their culture. The State evicted them but has not stopped their struggle.
* * *
The many land struggles throughout the islands show the desire and need of the people of Hawai’i for I and. Whether the demand is for stopping development, control of the communities, preserving agriculture and country lifestyle, access, or the outright return of the land, the people have shown their willingness to fight.
There is no shortage of land in Hawai’i. The people of Hawai’i are on the land now and will continue taking over more of the land they aren’t on. It comes down to a question of who will control the land and who will control Hawai’i. It is a question of political power and whether that power will stay with U.S. imperialism or come to the people of Hawai’i.
Tracy Takano was born and raised in Hawai’i. He is a shop steward in Local 5 of the Hotel and Restaurant Employees Union.

Waiāhole-Waikāne :amd Struggle (Repost)

(Note: Reposting this from the UH Department of Ethnic Studies  as it compliments some of my other posts about the Hawaiian sovereignty movement)

The Struggles of the Waiāhole-Waikāne Community Association
Bob Nakata

Talk given to Ethnic Studies students in ES 381 (Social Movements in Hawaiʻi) course, on
Monday, November 16, 1998.

Senator Bob Nakata discussed the Waiāhole-Waikāne struggle and the role of Ethnic Studies
Students and teaching staff in that fight. The importance of leadership, democracy, strategy, and tactics in community organizing were highlighted.

Those elements, essential in any social struggle, reinforced one another to bring about a significant victory that now serves as a testament to the role of ordinary human beings as active agents of social change.

Coming Home to Development Struggles

Let me give you some personal history first. I’m assuming you folks have read about the Waiāhole-Waikāne struggle and know where the valleys are. I grew up one valley Kāneʻohe side of Waiāhole-Waikāne, but in the days that I was growing up, the only elementary and intermediate school in the area was the Waiāhole School, so I went to school there. I worked in the taro patches from the age of six. Since then, I’ve moved on, but I want to go back to working in the taro patch. I have great respect for the Reppuns who got Ivy League education but are doing taro farming. I was highly skeptical that they would do it, but they have done it. So I grew up in that area and went to school in Waiāhole, and I was very familiar with that community.

After I went to seminary in New York City, where I did field placement and worked in Spanish Harlem – that was my introduction to community organizing work – I came home in 1972. I guess that’s before most of you were born; I’m starting to feel old. When I had left Kahaluʻu, it was really a rural area, with farms – pretty much a farming community. When I came back in ’72 it was under a lot of development pressure – after statehood, the development of this island spread out in all directions from Honolulu outward, and somewhere in the early 1970s, it got out to Kahaluʻu. When I came home, I saw –when I was a teenager, I wasn’t paying any attention to – these developers’ movements that were happening in the state. While I was a teenager in the fifties and sixties, the City had come up with a development plan for Kahaluʻu which billed it as a second city. What you see now in ʻEwa today was planned for Kahaluʻu – the deep-draft harbor, the oil refineries, the resorts, the major sewage treatment plant, the major marinas, things like that, were all planned for Kahaluʻu when I grew up.

Several groups had formed while I was on the mainland, who were working to stop these developments. So when I came home, I joined them and one of the major struggles was the H-3. But as I got involved, there was work cleaning up Kāneʻohe Bay. We worked changing those development plans – specifically, there were several major developments that we stopped. There was a 1600 unit development plan on the back of Waiheʻe Valley which we stopped, and several smaller ones. From that I got some of that training and experience on how to slow down or stop these kinds of developments, and that’s where I became acquainted first with Pete Thompson, who was one of the Ethnic Studies instructors here, Terri Kekoʻolani and Kehau Lee. They spent a lot of their time out there in Kahaluʻu with us – I’ll refer back to that later. But in 1972-1973, as a result of the work I did in Kahaluʻu, a planner told me, “Watch out for Waiāhole-Waikāne.” We had gone through a planning process; I was going around to different parts of the community asking, “Okay, how do you want to see our community develop?” We were trying to be proactive – and developers were not cooperating.


When I got to Waiāhole, in the summer of 1973, there were around 30 people at the meeting – normally only 10-12 people who would come to the meeting, that was all I wanted to get discussion going.

But the reason why there were so many people in Waiāhole was that they were seeing surveyors coming 2 up and down their roads and out of their fields, and there was an agricultural economist going around talking to people asking them their attitudes about development. From that meeting, I got to know Bobby Fernandez, who was a young fellow only 27-28 years old, on disability from Hawaiian Electric, where he was a boiler mechanic, but he also happened to be the President of the PTA [Parents-Teachers Association], and the only person I knew who had any kind of leadership capacity in Waiāhole.

The first place we went to was the Land Use Commission where we found a letter from Mrs. Loy McCandless Marks, the owner of the property, and she had plans for 7,000 condo units in those two valleys, which at that time probably had 120 families, tenant farmers, Filipino laborers, and some Hawaiian families there. Then we talked to Life of the Land, which was one of the active environmental

groups at the time. We talked to Legal Aid, which at that time, played a much higher role than it does now

in terms of community struggles. We were checking things out, but we finally called a meeting in April of

1974, and we had meetings with the developers.

We later found out how much power we were up against – there were City officials and

legislators, there were judges, there were labor leaders, all involved with the developers. The name of this

development company was Windward Partners. We found out really quickly what we were up against.

When we called that first meeting, practically every adult in the community turned out, and many

of the children also. One of the things I’ve learned from these kinds of experiences is that the more

threatened people feel, the easier it is to get them organized. But they do have to have some faith that

they can do something. The experiences that Kahaluʻu felt then, those people had seen us win a number

of smaller battles, so when we came in to help organize them in Waiāhole, they turned out. Bobby and I

felt the whole weight of the community on us, expecting that we would be able to help them. We told them

this was a struggle which all of us must participate in. There was a tremendous amount of fear. Most of

the people were tenants on month-to-month leases. On a month-to-month lease, all you’re entitled to is

28 days’ notice and you’re supposed to vacate. The tenants at that point refused to be leaders of that

organization. The first steering committee meeting had people who were small landowners, Hawaiian

kuleana owners (owners of small pieces of land), and there was one family – the Charlot family – if you

don’t know that family, it’s the one of the artist who painted that mural on the UPW [United Public

Workers] Hall. His son and daughter-in-law lived in Waiāhole, and they got involved. It was not a real

representative leadership at that time; it was more middle-class, more secure people who became the

leaders in that early period.

Now I had called Pete to come out; he had to go to China, but he sent a couple of other people to

help. We were careful about who we involved there. Partly because, in my experience in Kahaluʻu – and

this is instructive for those of you who might want to get involved in this kind of community struggle – in

those days, when the outsiders came in, they were so active that over time, the community leadership

pulled away. This was especially so since the Ethnic Studies students were at a higher academic level,

they knew how to go down to the City to check out the records and all that, and they’d come back and

report. The community people would start to feel as if it wasn’t their organization, and they pulled back.

We didn’t want to see that happen in Waiāhole, so we had just a few people come and Pete sent us a few

students to help.

One of the first things we did was to have a demonstration downtown. We knew that the savings

and loans were funding this development and we went down to demonstrate against them right in the

middle of downtown, on Bishop Street. What we did differently from most of the other struggles going on

at the time was that we took just residents – the normal procedure was for a lot of outside help,

particularly students, to be there. While we were demonstrating, one of the students who went by yelled

out, “Hey, where’s your support?” At that point, we didn’t want it and we didn’t need it. We needed the

people to stand up for themselves. And they did, but they also needed support.

At the same time, we had put together a slide show with Pete Thompson’s help an excellent slide

show. We trained the people themselves to take that slide show. They were going all over the place – into

the schools, and to the unions, even if we were up against union leaders. Whatever civic groups wanted

to hear about Waiāhole-Waikāne, we sent people to go and talk to them. And then we had a petition

drive, and in 20 days, they turned out and they got 20,000 signatures. This was a community of people

most of whom didn’t have even a high school education – most of them had a junior high school

education at the most. But this was their cause, their homes, and their livelihoods that were threatened;

they had motivation to go out there and try to protect their own community.

There was a hearing in October of that year, 1974, with the Land Use Commission. That year

was a very exciting and important year in the history of land use in Hawaiʻi; The Land Use Commission

was doing something called the five-year boundary review – they actually had abandoned that since that 3

year because it provided a valuable forum for all kinds of communities across the state. The review was

the time that all the developers would put their plans on the table. All the communities across the state

knew at the same time what was happening not just in their communities, but in other communities.

That’s where Pete and the Ethnic Studies students played a very important role. They and several other

groups connected all of these community struggles statewide. They were sending people to Kauaʻi,

sending people here, sending people to Kona, to Maui, wherever these land struggles were happening.

But the linkage was through Pete and the Ethnic Studies Program. That’s the kind of role this Program

played at that point in the struggle.

Strategies and Responses

We really worked at two things – the community, and leadership in charge. Before the hearing,

there was an upheaval within the community association itself. Pete had been talking to a lot of nonfarming tenants – Filipino families, and Hawaiian families who were not fighting and who actually were

most at-risk. One of the slogans was “keep the land in agriculture,” but the tenants were not farmers, so

they were very vulnerable. Pete and some others worked very hard with those tenants, saying, “You folks

should be in the leadership of the association.” And I guess that would get everybody hyped up to do that:

a group of them getting into one steering committee meeting, and demanded to be a part of the

leadership, almost forgetting that several months earlier, they had refused to be a part of the leadership.

But that was an important turning point, because, as it was, it was those tenants who would carry the

struggles from that point on. The farmers turned out to be more conservative in the end and pulled back

from the more radical actions that we had to do later on in the struggle.

One key thing happened shortly after that. I had never voted in the steering committee – I would

get into the arguments and the discussions. Others from the outside had participated in the voting. One of

the residents noticed that I hadn’t voted on a key issue, and he asked, “Well Bob, what’s your stand on

this?” And I said, “I support what you’re doing, and I support you in your struggle, but this is your

community and your life, so I shouldn’t be voting.” After that, all the outsiders stopped voting. And that

was the key thing that kept the control of the struggle in the hands of that steering committee, the

residents. We participated fully in the arguments, and there were times you’d feel that some kind of

physical fight would break out, the arguments were so intense, but that never happened, and the

leadership really remained in the hands of that community.

The first major hearing we had, we turned out about a thousand of people, in King Intermediate

School, from all across the island. Support groups from other struggles were there. While the hearing was

going on, we had prepared 30-35 people to testify at the hearing. We said, “Look, you speak pidgin, but

the Land Use Commission is made up basically of local people who will understand pidgin, so never mind

– just practice and be ready to make your testimony.” We had a Japanese lady who couldn’t really speak

English very well, and probably was a bit little mentally out of touch with reality, Mrs. Matayoshi, but she

wanted to testify, and her testimony was a gem to the valley. There was a Hawaiian lady maybe in her

eighties who testified in Hawaiian, and we had someone translate for her.

We did those kinds of things – we had everybody ready, and we had rehearsed, but there was

another group that was going around to all of these hearings with their bullhorns, megaphones, whatever,

and literally taking over the hearings. We didn’t want that to happen in ours, because we had spent so

much time preparing. It’s another example of how the leadership stayed in the community and a

testament to Bobby Fernandez . Shortly after the hearing started, I noticed that the people on my right

had a bullhorn, and Bobby was on my left. I tapped Bobby and I said, “Bobby, I think they’re going to take

over the hearing.” He immediately reached behind me and tapped the fellow on my right. And he just

said, “We’re in charge.” That was the end of that.

Things got a little rowdy in the hearing, though – a lot of emotions. We asked for a recess so we

could calm down our supporters. We explained to them that we wanted the hearing to proceed because

we had good testimony; everybody was prepared. The Chairman of the Land Use Commission was kind

of worried about what would happen, he came out, and we told him, “Look, don’t worry, we’ll control the

situation.” The hearing was reconvened, but what I didn’t know was that the Chairman had agreed to let

our group come in with their signs and circle the room once and chant, and then everything would be o.k.

That’s how it turned out, everybody coming in with all the signs and leaving. But as a result of that

hearing, Windward Partners was turned down, 9 to nothing, by the Land Use Commission.4

That organizing effort led to victory, but it was not a permanent victory. The landowners then sent

in one of our present City Council people, John Henry Felix. Felix had been head of the Board of Water

Supply, chief engineer or whatever it was – you know, chair of the board. Anyway, somebody called with

an anonymous tip to Bobby Fernandez that Felix was a member of Windward Partners. At that point, we

didn’t know it. We called him on conflict of interest, and he resigned from the Board of Water Supply, and

became openly the leader of Windward Partners. He came and started negotiating with the steering

committee. And he was good as man as chief negotiator. But the developer was this man named Joe

Pao, kind of infamous back in those days for ignoring anything environmental. He was really the power

behind Windward Partners. He pulled John Henry Felix out of the negotiations two months after it started,

which probably was a good thing for us, because John Henry Felix was working out a compromise which

would’ve allowed the development of Waikāne but not Waiāhole. That was the foot-in-the-door tactic that

he was using. But fortunately, Pao was too impatient to let the process go forward. He pulled John Henry

out, and the negotiations came to a stop. They tried to get the redesignation of Waikāne by itself, and we

were able to rally again and defeat that. That was in 1976, but the trouble was still not over after two


What happened next was that Mrs. Marks raised the rent – the rents were actually quite low.

Some rents were proposed to be raised 700%, seven times. We went to court trying to stop people before

then. We got people to refuse to pay the increase. We started collecting the rent money and put it into an

escrow account. Almost everybody in the valley did that. Their next move then was to evict everybody

from the valley and we were in court to prevent the eviction.

Remember now, at that point, all they needed was one months’ notice and then you’re out, but

during the course of the struggle, we could see the people getting stronger and stronger. One of the

chants in our demonstrations was “Hell no, we ain’t moving.” And the demonstrations would strike the

people in this way – over the course of this struggle, you could almost see roots growing out of their

clothes into the ground. They were getting that determined that they would not move out, and in this time

period, when you were going to court, we had eviction drills. Later we had people surrounding the house

with locked arms, and we called the media in to demonstrate what we would do. There were some

discussions that, when you look back, sound kind of funny – what would we do if they came in from the

ocean? We couldn’t figure that one out. Then we were like, what if they come in with helicopters? My

uncle was a farmer, and he took this suggestion seriously – I don’t know how many others did – but one

idea was to climb the roof. He said that, “If they come by the air, we go climb the roof.” But the serious

one was “What if they really do come, then what do we do?” There were long discussions about blocking

all the roads leading up into the valley, but none of those things worked because there were people who

lived on the ocean side of the highway. Finally, somebody suggested that you have to blockade the

highway. Eventually, that is what was done.

In the court process, we kept losing – the District Court, Circuit Court – but when we lost at the

Circuit Court, the judge said, “I’ll let you stay on the land while your case proceeds to the Supreme Court

if you will post bond,” but he didn’t say what the bond would be. He set another hearing at which he would

set the bond price. There was a major meeting of the steering committee at that point, and the

recommendation to what they called the general membership, the whole membership of the association,

was not to post bond, no matter what it was. It was about this time of the year, when the holidays were

coming up. The analysis basically was: here’s Thanksgiving, Christmas, the New Year, and the opening

of the Legislature, we are about as strong as we can be, let’s bring it on now. That was the

recommendation. We don’t post bond, and bring on the confrontation. The vote was 39-36. There had

been other things along the way where people gradually fell away, but that was the vote, and the 36

became inactive at that point, so the 39, the rest of them, continued the struggle. And this is where I have

to give Bobby Fernandez a lot of credit, as a young man, 28, 29 years old, 30 at the most by this time –

his closest friends were part of the 36, rather than the 39, and yet he continued the leadership of that

association. He didn’t let friendship stand in the way of what he knew had to be done. He had to take

radical action to block the eviction. And it was serious, because a good friend of mine, was a woman, a

sergeant at the police department, and she was the first to be in charge of the children – when the

eviction happened, she was supposed to take care of the children at the Koʻolau Boys Home. On the

police side, the plans were very serious. Bobby deserves a lot of credit for staying with the struggle and,

in a sense, divorcing himself from his friends and continuing in the leadership.

Anyway, we got about 500 people into those valleys over New Year’s weekend, because Mrs.

Marks said that January 3rd was the eviction date. Five hundred people were camped up in the valley,

some from outside who came in for support, to generate support from all kinds of people, including church 5

groups. January 3rd, I think, was a Monday, and from that day, we saw that people were leaving, going

back to work or whatever. I was instructed to call the Governor’s Office – I was the liaison to the

Governor’s Office – and tell Governor Ariyoshi or his assistant that if he didn’t step in to resolve the issue,

we would bring everybody down to the Capitol Lawn and camp out there. They asked for a couple of days

in which to try and work something out, and they started talking with Mrs. Marks.

But on the – I believe it was the 5th, Wednesday – we had CB radio operators working with us,

and they were watching all the police stations. That week, we were meeting every night, late into the

night, working on strategy. At about a quarter to eleven, or twenty to eleven, we got a call from the CB

operators saying that the police were moving in, or moving out of the police station. We said, “Watch for a

couple of more minutes, then call us back.” They called and said, “They are coming.” We put our plan into

action – sounded the alarm, everybody went down Waiāhole Valley and blocked Kamehameha highway

on both ends. It was kind of funny; I saw everybody going to Kāneʻohe side, nobody was going to Kahuku

side. I went to Kahuku side and found one or two cars standing, with this trucker blocking one lane, and

nobody blocking the other lane. I pulled my Volkswagen over and blocked that lane. Luckily, no car came

along to ram it. We were there alone about 16 minutes before anyone else came, but all the action was

happening on the other end anyway.

Finally, the police were able to convince us that it was a false alarm, that they weren’t coming.

We lifted the blockade at about 1:30 in the morning. The interesting thing was that we stood by Waiāhole

Poi Factory, singing “Hawai‘i Aloha” with our arms out, holding hands, and the drivers – you’d expect

they’d be mad, being stopped for two, three hours – but they went by cheering us.

After that, the Governor finally really stepped in, and about a month later, announced that the

state was purchasing Waiāhole, and the families could remain there. I’m looking at that: “The limits of

what is ‘possible’ for you to do is restricted by the narrowness of your outlook” (a quote by Lenin written

on the chalkboard in ES 381). If you have the guts to fight, you can do a lot of things. I don’t think when

we started, that people dreamed that they would be blockading the highway, a federal crime, in order to

preserve their rights to stay on the land.

Eventually, the Supreme Court, I forget on what grounds, did say that the people could remain.

And they’re still there, the families, they’re still there, they just got their 55-year leases earlier this

summer. It took a long time to wrap up the leases, but they had them.

Lessons in Political Mobilization

I mentioned several lessons along the way. In the organizing effort, there were four of us that I

think were critical: Bobby Fernandez, Pete Thompson, Michael Hare, and myself. Bobby was the natural

leader although he was the youngest of the tenants in the association. His instincts on what to do were

really very good. I did mention that the sheriff actually called on January 3rd, the day of the eviction drill,

he called ahead to say, “I’m calling, but I’m only delivering them [eviction notices], I’m not evicting you

guys.” He wanted to be sure of his own safety. When he called to say he was coming, we marched down

Waiāhole Valley Road, more than 500 people marching down, we found the ladies were leading us with a

chant, and somebody had been evicted. I didn’t realize the intensity of the emotions. The chanting helped

because it released a lot of the stress and pressure, but it was just constant. All the way from where we

were, the headquarters were 4 miles down the highway. The chanting was going on, and all the way to


All of those kinds of techniques were important. Bobby was important. Pete was great not only for

his research abilities and the energy that he had, but he’s probably one of the more charismatic leaders

this state has had over the last couple of generations, a tremendous talker. He was the one who, if

anyone could be called a rabble-rouser in that group, he was, because he had a fine sense of how far to

push so things wouldn’t go too far. He always could pull back, that’s important, to get out of there. As for

my role, I was a minister, more like a good shepherd, trying to keep everybody together as long as we

could. I think the four of us were critical. And teamwork is important, even in this kind of struggle.

One of the other important lessons that I mentioned earlier is that we really talked things out.

There were a lot of disagreements within that steering committee, but once a decision was made,

because of the critical nature of the situation, everybody should stick behind it. Whether you agreed or not

in the discussion, if a decision was made, stick behind it. There was tremendous unity in that struggle.

From the larger perspective, I think that ended the development going down the coast from Waiāhole on

down. Hopefully it ended almost forever – there will be houses built and stuff like that, but any major 6

development, I’m hopeful, has stopped as a result of the stuff that we did in Waiāhole and Kahaluʻu. All

the things that I’ve mentioned to you, the deep-draft harbor and whatever, have been wiped off the maps

now – the Windward Second City, the Kahaluʻu Second City. I think it’s a real credit to these people,

especially in Waiāhole-Waikāne.

I think too that this serves as an inspiration for people across the state to stand up and fight the

developers. In the eighties, there were golf courses; now we seem to be in a time where development is

really down. I expect that when the economy in Asia picks up again, we’re going to face development

pressures again. I really believe that a lot of groups have formed now who can help to either block it or

control it, so that this state remains a relatively good place to live.

There were elements of the Hawaiian community that came into this struggle, but because

Waiāhole-Waikāne had Hawaiians, Filipinos, and Okinawan farmers, we didn’t bill it as a Hawaiian

struggle, although many Hawaiian groups did come in too. I’m not sure what the implications of all that

are. We did build it very deliberately that way on a class basis and not as an ethnic struggle.

Excerpts from Replies to Commonly Asked Questions

About the Revolutionary Communist Party’s (RCP) involvement in the struggle, Pete and others

very close to him did become members of the RCP. The reaction of the people were very interesting; you

would think that they would reject that. But they were feeling so isolated by the power structure that many

of them said, “If this is what communism is, I want it too. (Or something to that effect.) They’re the only

ones that care for us.” That did play an important role, the discipline that they brought. I won’t deny that

they played a very important role.

But after this victory, they tried to use this Waiāhole-Waikāne struggle as a launching pad for

other struggles, and it was about that time that Mao died. And to me anyway, they lost a little bit of

perspective, and started pushing something they called the “Mao Memorial.” And that’s when they

alienated themselves from the community. I’m not sure that people were safe now that they didn’t have to

depend on these people, or whether they actually pushed them out. The RCP may’ve lost touch with

reality – that’s my sense. That was a time when Pete lost that fine touch and took it one step too far.

I’m remembering an incident that happened, and in a sense, the RCP faction wasn’t wrong –

several years after the state purchased the land, something came up. Remember the state purchase was

Waiāhole and not Waikāne. There were some discussions going on with what to do with Waikāne. The

developers made an offer through Michael Hare, who was the attorney to all of them, and represents

Bishop Estate frequently these days.

We have to give Mike his due; he left one of the biggest law firms in town and practically starved

himself to work with us. He was in his early twenties, married with a young child, working as a night guard

at one of the hotels to support himself, but very staunchly for the community. The important contribution

he made is to tell us, “The lawyer is not here to keep you out of trouble; the lawyer is here to get you out

of trouble.” He said that in order not to inhibit the action.

But the approach was made too much on settlement on the Waikāne side. And one of the ground

rules for the steering committee was that no-one talks to the other side alone. Mike violated that, and

Pete was calling him on that violation. But the steering committee, maybe tired of the struggle, and maybe

it was different circumstances, sided with Mike. An attempt was made at a resolution. Pete folks were

kicked out. But there was no resolution, and two months ago, the City Council through Steve Holmes

purchased Waikāne. So stray pieces kept falling in place years after the main struggle was over, but it still

carries the impact. That community had different leadership a few years ago just on the waterfront; this

time the leadership was with the Reppun brothers who back then [in the 1970s] were ostracized because

they were outsiders coming in. Their friends were in that more moderate group of 36. Their leadership

was not really accepted by the old-timers. But the Reppuns are the ones who carried the water fight.

It’s a very interesting history. It almost makes me feel that even though I’m a Christian minister,

there’s a lot to the Hawaiian religion, the Hawaiian perception about natural power. Kualoa, a few miles

down the road, and I’ve always felt that Kualoa does have a special power of mana. It’s almost as if the

mana emanating from Kualoa is helping protect that part of the land.

On overdevelopment in Kāneʻohe, those of us who acted in Kahaluʻu didn’t want to see Kahaluʻu

turn into something like Kāneʻohe. Kahaluʻu had slowly developed as a rear guard action. Waiāhole is

where it’s at and we were going to stop it here. One of the earlier things we did in Kahaluʻu was the flood

control bridge in Kahaluʻu. A friend of mine died when we were in a group fighting that flood control 7

project. We knew we’re going to lose, so our group called us traitors. We said, “Okay, we’ll say yes if the

bridge is only two lanes, and no high arch allowed,” and the City agreed to that. I think we were right – the

project was coming through anyway, because about fifteen out of sixteen groups in the community

wanted it, and we were the only holdouts. So there’s a history to that too.

The regional Native Hawaiian groups in Kahaluʻu fighting development were doing it because

they were protecting their kuleana. The development plans with a deep-draft harbor and all of that

threatened their as property – that’s why they organized.

On the recent water rights struggle, having the land gives these people a stronger leg to stand on,

but each time, the struggle seems as though it will go on forever. The three Reppun brothers, who have

gotten into the water rights struggle (they speak fluent Hawaiian now), I think, are the next generation of

leaders of that part of the island.

The Waiāhole-Waikāne struggle was hard to do but also very exciting, and very rewarding. And

for me, the reward was not so much the victory on the land but to see the development of people like

Bobby Fernandez, like Hannah Salas, the housewife, who, in the course of that struggle, became one of

the sharpest and strongest political analysts and political leaders that I’ve ever seen. I tried to get her

involved with bigger issues outside of Waiāhole, but that she didn’t want to do.

At one point, we had a big benefit concert. Actually, that occurred in 1977, after the blockade. We

wanted to raise money, so we had this concert, with all kinds of Hawaiian entertainers. Traffic backed up

from Waiāhole Poi Factory to the Wilson Tunnel. I know because I had to come here [Honolulu] to

address a church group and take a Native American back out to Waiāhole.

The reason I believe the eviction never happened was that we generated so much support. They

were going to use the National Guard in the eviction; the officers in the Kāneʻohe Police Station had

made it very clear that they wouldn’t participate in an eviction. There was a film crew that came up to

Waiāhole and used that struggle as one part of a three-part documentary. One was in California, in the

grape fields; the other was an Eskimo struggle up in Alaska. It was a big story; probably in Hawai‘i the

biggest movement since the labor movement.

On Cayetano’s recent efforts to purchase the Waiāhole water ditch for $9.7 million, we are trying

to stop the bill. We were wondering if there was some kind of glitch so they couldn’t purchase. We were heavily involved in the creation of the water struggle and the amendment to the state constitution. I sat on the original commission for seven and a half years, still just the beginning part of the Waiāhole ditchdigging. I could only serve two terms consecutively. I was off before the full-blown case started.
Transcribed by Ida Yoshinaga